When money gets tight in a marriage, or worse, when debt piles up beyond what a couple can handle, the very marriage is often strained beyond what it can bear. In many of these cases, the couple wants to divorce but also needs to consider bankruptcy options, and it is not always clear which is best to pursue first.

Each couple’s circumstances are different, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this dilemma. However, there are a number of reasons to consider filing for bankruptcy before divorce. If you and your spouse are caught in this difficult trap, make sure to consider all your legal and financial options carefully.

Spend less, keep more

While bankruptcy is a path to financial freedom in the long term, it does have a number of built-in expenses, no matter how a couple chooses to approach the issue. One of the key advantages of filing for bankruptcy while still married is that both spouses can typically undergo a joint bankruptcy procedure for roughly the same cost as an individual.

When filing for bankruptcy, there are certain filing fees that you cannot avoid in most cases. These are court costs and other similar expenses that apply to the overall process. If a couple chooses to file for bankruptcy jointly, then those fees cover both spouses, not only one.

On the other side of the equation are the exemptions that the law provides those who file bankruptcy. Depending on how many assets a couple has, they may be able to keep more property under these exemptions if they file jointly, similar to the marital exemptions couples may use when filing tax returns.

If a couple is already feeling the strain of debt, it is wise to consider how a bankruptcy may make divorce easier, especially considering that divorce will certainly affect each party’s assets and liabilities.

When to consider divorce first

In some instances, filing for divorce before bankruptcy is more advantageous for a couple. This might occur if a couple does not qualify for a certain type of bankruptcy because they have too many assets, for instance. With careful planning, you can assess your financial concerns alongside your marriage and determine which path to freedom leaves you in the best position on the other side.

No matter what your circumstances, any couple considering both bankruptcy and divorce is certainly under a great deal of personal and financial strain, which can easily skew priorities and personal perspective. Make sure that you take special care to build a strong divorce and bankruptcy strategy to protect your rights and see you through to the next season of life, wherever that may lead.